What Is Mary's Song and What Does It Teach Modern Readers?

Contributing Writer
What Is Mary's Song and What Does It Teach Modern Readers?

During this special time of year, we celebrate Advent by reading the words of Luke as he tells the Christmas story. The birth of Christ marks a time when hope is revived, and love is shared with everyone. In the Gospel of Luke, we find Mary’s song. She is praising the God who has chosen her to be the mother of His only son. Her words are powerful and hold lessons we can learn today.

What Is Mary’s Song?

Of the four gospels, Luke’s is the only one to speak of Mary’s song. Her words are found in Luke 1:46-55. Mary is visiting with her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Upon that visit, Elizabeth asked in verse 43, “How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Mary is aware that she is going to give birth to the Christ child. The angel Gabriel has spoken to her and shared God’s plan. But it seems that when she hears Elizabeth’s question, she is overtaken with a spirit of praise.

Mary’s song is a song of praise. She is not just sharing her thoughts with her cousin. She is saying that the Lord is great, and her spirit is rejoicing with the news that has come to her.

Today, Mary’s song is called The Magnificat, meaning “my soul magnifies the Lord” in Latin. It can be heard in Catholic services as well as Lutheran and Anglican. Her song has been copied into the Book of Common Prayer and for most Protestant churches, is sung during the Advent season.

What Is the Significance of Mary’s Song?

One might wonder why Mary’s song would be considered significant. Are they not just words spoken in a moment of happiness? The truth is that her song speaks of who she is and how deep her faith is. In verses 46-47 she says, “My soul praises the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary’s faith is rooted in Jewish tradition. We can surmise that she has come from a devout Jewish family and she believes in the God of her ancestors.

Her faith is further established in verses 48-50. Here she speaks of God looking on a humble servant with favor. She acknowledges that God is taking her humble status and using it to exalt her for generations to come. In verse 49 Mary says that she will be called blessed because “the Mighty One has done great things for me, and his name is holy.” She praises God for the mercy he bestows on all who will fear him.

In the last four verses of her song, she speaks of the wondrous things God has done for her ancestors, for her, and for all who will believe. Her recognition of the mighty deeds God has performed and the mercies He has given to the people of Israel is significant. She is telling us that while she may be nervous about her situation, she knows God has it all under control. He would not give her this blessing only to abandon her.

The Revolutionary Magnificat

While this song may not be as popular as other passages of Scripture, it does bear our time and consideration. This is a revolutionary example of praise given by a young girl who is carrying the one and only son of God. She no doubt was feeling some anxiety as she lived in a community that would ostracize her. She was betrothed, but not officially married. She was a virgin, yet she could not prove that to the common man.

Three types of revolutionary thought begin in the words of Mary’s song. Her words in verse 51, “He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud…” convey a moral revolutionary thought. She is speaking of the death of pride. In 21st century society, we hold to a lot of pride. We tend to turn a blind eye to those in need and refuse to ask for help when we need it. Our pride can hold us back from acting on God’s direction and being obedient.

Secondly, we can look at her song in a social revolutionary frame of mind. Mary says, “he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly.” Mary knows she is nothing special to the eyes of the world. She is a poor young girl who is to be married. She sees her situation as God exalting the lowly. God has seen fit to use a poor girl to bring the greatest gift to mankind. We can learn a few things from this. Our society puts a lot of importance on prestige and wealth. The more we have the better we are. God is proving that the world’s labels and prestige are not important to him. He is looking at the heart of a person, as he did with Mary.

Lastly, we see an economic revolution. Luke 1:53 says, “He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” If we are a Christian society, then why do we have hungry people? God’s word tells us that our status at the bank will not matter when God comes again. To live in obedience to God, we should not gain wealth and let our fellow man go hungry. Having wealth is not a bad thing. The issue is how we choose to use our wealth to glorify God.

Mary’s song has strong moral, social, and economic threads throughout. It is woven within her powerful words as she praises God for the blessing he has bestowed upon her.

What Is Mary Teaching Us with Her Song?

The global lessons are profound, but what Mary teaches us about our personal walk with Christ is even more powerful. The first thing that shines is how Mary had been what one pastor calls, “saturated with Scripture.” Her words allude to passages found in Psalms 22, 44, 103 and many others. She also alludes to Hannah’s song found in 1 Samuel. Just as Mary is, Hannah was singing a song of praise for the child God was giving her. Mary knew the Scriptures. She had them hidden in her heart and mind.

Mary also displayed a heart of humility. In verse 47 Mary says “… my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” She recognizes that God is her savior – meaning she recognizes she is a sinner. Mary recognizes who she is and where she comes from. She is not a person of prestige or from a wealthy family.  Anyone could be a better choice than her.  She acknowledged that she was a sinner and was blessed because of it. We should do the same today. If we confess that we are sinners, God will forgive and bestow His blessings upon us.

The words of verses 46-49 display an attitude of thankfulness. Mary could have focused on the situation and felt nothing but fear. Instead, she focuses on the blessing within the turmoil. People would ostracize her for having a child out of wedlock. They may find her story hard to believe. This happens to us today. We put our focus on the negatives of every situation we face when we should be giving thanks to God for allowing those situations to happen.

Lastly, we see Mary trusting the Lord. In verses 54-55, she speaks of the Abrahamic covenant. To believe in this covenant means she has faith. She trusts that God will keep His promises. Should we not do the same? Even in the hard times, we must keep the faith and trust that our God has it all under control.

Final Thoughts

Mary’s song, also known as the Magnificat, is an inspiring piece of Scripture. Her words are profound in the face of what she was about to do. We don’t know what she was thinking regarding the pregnancy. We don’t have a written word that describes her fear of what others will think or how they will treat her. All we have are these magnificent words that reveal her praises to God.

The message for us is that we are to have faith. We are to trust in our God. No matter the situation or circumstance, God has it all in his hands. We should strive to imitate the heart and mind of Mary in every situation. Her words are not just for the Advent season, they are for all seasons.

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Ashley Hooker headshotAshley Hooker is a freelance writer passionate about missions. She has collaborated with mission teams in North Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, West Virginia, and Vermont. Presently, she lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children, where she fulfills roles as a pastor's wife, a dance mom, and a farm girl.